top of page

Images or Imagination?

Updated: Jan 10, 2022


A look at the cost and standards of adding images to your book when printing fiction, non-fiction, and children's books.

By Michael Heath /

should you add pictures to your book?

Occasionally we get an author who wants to add pictures to a novel, believing that some illustrations will help the reader understand the story. My response is always the same: let the

words paint the picture. However, let's look at the costs and standards of illustration when printing fiction, non-fiction, and children's books.

Illustrations in Children's Books

Good writing does not need pictures – at least, not for kids who are ready to read on their own, typically for a children’s chapter book (third to fifth grade). In fact, children usually believe they have outgrown pictures and feel that picture books are a bit “babyish.” Of course, children’s picture books are full of colorful images. These books are like pieces of art that introduce little ones to the world of reading. Early readers are the Dick and Jane type books that help first and second graders learn how to read. Such books contain spot illustrations rather than full-color pages. Certainly, the intent of lessening the images is a bit of a transition thing, helping readers feel a little more grown up as a greater focus is placed on the words.

When Pictures Are Important: Fiction vs. Nonfiction?

While novels do not require pictures, nonfiction books often do: memoirs, biographies, family histories, reference tomes, true crime thrillers, and the list goes on. Sometimes words are not enough to “paint the picture.” Black and white pictures or glossier full-color images may be needed to make a book what it needs to be. A reader can gain a greater connection to the subject of a biographical book if photos of the person throughout the years is included. What would an economics book without pie and bar graphs? Photos of prepared food inspire future culinarians as they peruse a cookbook. There would not be enough “how-to” in a how-to book without graphic images to aid the reader. An art book requires … well, you know … art.

Cost Considerations When Including Images to a Book

If an author decides to include images in a book, he/she needs to decide how the pictures will be presented. There is a cost consideration in that full-color printing can cost dramatically more than black and white. A thirty-two-page, full-color children’s book is one thing; a two-hundred-fifty-two-page ornithology photo book is quite another. Printing a larger quantity helps bring down the cost per book. Sometimes the only practical way to print a full color book is if one thousand books or more are printed as small quantities usually makes them too expensive to resell at a profit.

Ways to Add Images to Your Book

If printing in full color is too expensive, then what is an author to do? One solution is to use an insert where several pages (known as a signature) of heavier stock are inserted into the middle of the book containing full color (or black and white) images. This is a common practice with biographies where pictures are important, but the rest of the book is printed on regular text stock to keep the cost down. Another option is to print black and white images onto the text stock. Black and white images look good and do not add any expense; text and pictures cost the same. Images can be disbursed throughout the book, rather than having to be lumped together.

On rare occasions a book will have one full color image somewhere inside. This is known in book printing parlance as a tip in. It adds complexity to the book printing while adding cost to the production. The benefits normally do not justify the extra costs and should only be considered on quantities of five thousand or more.

SelfPublishingUS can help you decide whether or not to include photos or illustrations in your book.

Contact us for more information on book printing & quotes; or illustrations for children's books

102 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page